A Level Latin

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

The Roman world empire may have fallen over fifteen hundred years ago but until then Rome had been a continuous presence and a power for over a thousand years. No modern-day nation can rival it for longevity. The legacy of Rome continues to be felt in many ways today. It is to them we owe town-planning, sanitation, viticulture, great architecture, the law and, across much of Europe, the languages we speak. By studying Latin at A level, you will develop the linguistic skills necessary for you to penetrate the Roman world and discover just how complex and surprisingly familiar a world it was. Through studying Cicero, for example, you will be understand just how true the claim is that to understand modern politics, you need to start in the Roman Forum.

Alongside Ciceronian politics and rhetoric, you will look at history, poetry and prose and develop a profound sense of the richness of the Roman world and the debt we owe them. You will also learn to appreciate the beauty of the language and, through mastering its complexities, come to better understand your own.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will start building on the grammar and vocabulary you acquired at GCSE so that you can address increasingly difficult unseen translations and become confident at translating from Latin into English and vice versa. You will look at Virgil’s Aeneid VIII (lines 86-279; 558-584). In this selection, the Trojans sail up the Tiber and seek out the Arcadians who are to be their allies in the coming war. In studying it, you will begin to learn the crafts of scansion and literary criticism. You will also study Tacitus’ Annals I (16-30)  where Tacitus discusses the initial phases of the reign of Tiberius, the ‘inscrutable’ successor of Augustus, including the dramatic revolt of the battle-weary legions in Pannonia. Tacitus portrays the events in his dense elliptical style and with his penetrating understanding of human psychology.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will deepen your knowledge of grammar and range of vocabulary through studying a greater quantity of text. You will look at three new main texts. The first is Virgil’s Aeneid X. You will be studying lines 215-250, 260-307, 426-542 in Latin and the whole book in English. Book X is about a key phase in the conflict, where the novice warrior Pallas, who has been entrusted to Aeneas, confronts and is killed by Aeneas’ arch-enemy and love rival, Turnus. Virgil depicts these events in a sombre tone which underlines his hatred of the waste of war. The second is Seneca’s Letters. You will study letters 51, 53 and 57 in Latin, and 21 and 54 in English. The third is Tacitus’ Annals XV, which provides an account of the suicide of the Stoic Seneca, who takes his own life as a result of falling out of favour with the emperor Nero, his former pupil. You will study chapters 60-64 in English.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

The study of Latin has long been a respected part of an education and it develops a wide range of skills. In order to master the complex grammar, you will have to develop a logical mind. Alongside learning linguistics, you will be exploring historical, philosophical and literary ideas and making connections between them and the modern world. Close analysis of texts will develop a careful eye for detail and an appreciation of literary form. Classicists have long been admired for the measured and beautiful powers of oral and written expression such study yields. These universally-respected attributes means that Latin works well with any combination of academic subjects.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

An A or A* at Latin is desirable with a B as a minimum as the jump from GCSE to A level is considerable. You will also need an interest in literature, history and politics.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams. The Unit 1 exam (Latin Language) consists of two sections. Section A requires a passage of Latin prose to be translated into English. Section B requires either a second prose passage to be translated into English or English sentences to be translated into Latin. The Unit 2 exam (Latin Literature) tests students’ understanding of the set texts by Virgil and Tacitus and Cicero. Both papers are worth 50% of the AS (25% of the A level) and last 1 hour 30 minutes (Latin Language) and 2 hours (Latin Literature).

A level

For the A level, there are four exams. The Unit 1 exam (Unseen Translation) will test students’ ability to translate seen prose and verse. The Unit 2 exam (Prose Composition or Comprehension) will test their ability to understand more advanced prose unseen passages or their ability to translate into Latin. The Unit 3 exam (Prose Literature) will test students’ knowledge and understanding of Tacitus’ Annals I and Seneca’s Letters (51; 53; 57) in Latin, and Annals XV and letter 54 in English. The Unit 4 exam (Verse Literature) will test their knowledge and understand of Virgil’s Aeneid VIII and X. Paper 1 is worth 33% of the A level and lasts 1 hour 45 minutes. Paper 2 is worth 17% and lasts 1 hour 15 minutes. Papers 3 and 4 are worth 25% each and last 2 hours each.

Reading

Virgil Aeneid VIII: A Selection with Introduction, Notes and Commentary
By K. MacLennan
Published by Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781474271905

Virgil Aeneid X: A Selection with Introduction, Notes and Commentary
By C. Tanfield
Published by Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781474266109

Tacitus Annals l: A Selection with Introduction, Notes and Commentary
Introduction by R. Mayer and Notes and
Commentary by K. Radice
Published by Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781474265980

Seneca Letters: A Selection with Introduction, Notes and Commentary
By E. Maunder
Published by Bloomsbury, ISBN 9781474266062

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: OCR H043, A level: OCR H443 (reformed) 

Robert Heggie
Head of Department